There is a way to end poverty - bring governments and businesses together

A Somali mother waits for her baby to be given a vaccine injection at a medical clinic in Mogadishu on April 24, 2013 as part of an initiative launched by the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF and WHO.

Mo Ibrahim is the Founder of Celtel, and Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Paul Polman is the CEO of Unilever Both are members of The B Team, a not-for-profit initiative formed by a global group of business leaders to catalyze a better way of doing business, for the well-being of people and the planet. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN)Money alone can't solve the problems that beset so many people around the world -- poverty, conflict, inequality, lack of opportunity. But money is necessary to help fund the solutions we know already exist for a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

This is why the Financing for Development conference taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week is so critical. As business leaders we know you need to invest to get returns. Now, politicians have the chance to invest in all of our futures.
The Addis Ababa conference is the first in a series of three major gatherings in what is an extraordinary year of potentially game-changing international summits.
Mo Ibrahim
Paul Polman
In September, world leaders will gather at the U.N. in New York to agree a new set of global goals -- the Sustainable Development Goals -- which will establish the framework for joint global action on poverty, inequality and climate change for the next 15 years.
    Then in December in Paris the United Nations Conference on Climate Change will be a critically important moment for countries to finalize a global agreement on climate action.
    It is hard to overstate the opportunity this year presents. More than 22 million people from across the world have already taken action as part of a global citizens movement -- action/2015 -- calling on their leaders to work together to tackle inequality, poverty and climate change.
    There is a real and urgent need to do more to help poor countries adapt to climate change, as well as to fund investment in clean tech and renewable energy to get the world on track to a net-zero emissions future.
    Although it has received less attention, it would be wrong to see Addis Ababa as the "poor cousin" of these other meetings. Why? Because it is in Addis that the additional funding needed for the implementation of urgent climate action and the new Development Goals will need to be found. It is also where the foundations for a more connected policy dialogue can be laid.

    Unlocking resources

    The scale of the task is daunting, but we are not overwhelmed. We firmly believe that it is entirely possible to unlock resources by galvanizing new models of funding and collaboration by bringing government and the private sector together.
    Look to GAVI (the public-private Vaccine alliance) and the Global Innovation Fund (alliance of UK, U.S., Swedish and Australian governments with Omidyar Network and other private grants and investments) for just two positive recent examples of these new partnerships.
    Development assistance still has a key role to play. Those donor countries who are not already meeting the U.N. target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid should use the Addis meeting to make concrete, timetabled commitments to do so. If they did, an extra $168 billion would be raised every year.
    But this is about much more than development assistance. It's also about maximizing countries' domestic resources, stopping illicit financial flows, and harnessing the positive contributions of the private sector.
    Currently, many developing nations fail to collect enough tax due to ineffective systems, corruption, and tax evasion. In 2009, rich countries had an average tax-to-GDP ratio of 30% while developing ones managed just 14%. This means their governments are missing out on the money they need to provide basic services to their citizens and to invest in a more equal and dynamic future.
    Tax evasion, money laundering, bribery and misuse of the transfer pricing rules also lead to huge outflows of money from poor countries -- $947 billion in 2011 alone. That's enough to realize the goal of ending all preventable child deaths many times over.
    Maintaining strong governance and paying tax are crucial elements of the social compact companies make with the public and their customers.
    We also think it's right to provide financial and environmental information to public authorities, country-by-country, profits made, taxes paid, subsidies received, carbon emissions and environmental impact and revenue.
    There is already positive and real progress in corporate reporting, creating momentum for further change. For example, 75% of companies already report on environmental, social and governance factors, and over 1,000 companies support a price on carbon.

    Major drivers

    As business leaders, we also understand that ambitious commitments at government and company level need to be made in order for us to solve climate change and poverty together; ensuring that the clearly-stated drive and the right mechanisms are in place to finance the transition to a net-zero economy in a way that reduces inequality and lifts millions out of poverty.
    We know this is both possible and necessary, but Addis, however ambitious, isn't the end goal. Our efforts can inspire leadership well beyond 2015 and unlock a virtuous cycle of a better, more inclusive kind of growth.
    Progressive businesses support bold government ambition. They see themselves as partners in fostering development and tackling climate change, with a particular ability to unlock growth, create jobs, and innovate to meet societal needs. And they recognize that partnership is in their interests too.
    They know that by tackling the related issues of climate and poverty together -- and by building in accountability to policy-making -- we can create a more sustainable and profitable world for all.
    It will be a world in which everyone's fundamental rights are met, where growth takes place within planetary boundaries, and benefits are delivered to all.
    Together we can be major drivers towards an end to poverty in all its forms.